Date of Degree

9-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor

Elizabeth Jeglic

Committee Members

Cynthia Calkins

Michele Galietta

Bonnie Klentz

Brandy Blasko

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Law and Psychology

Keywords

sexual assault, teacher sexual assault, juror decision-making

Abstract

In recent years, instances of educator sexual assault against students have flooded the media. In particular, female teachers who abused students have seized the public’s attention as they are often portrayed as attractive and a sexual fantasy. This portrayal can then impact the way society perceives these sexual assaults. Importantly, however, it is not known whether this perception influences the prosecution and sentencing of these cases. The current study examined the impact of gender and attractiveness of a teacher, as well as gender of the student victim, on juror decision-making in a teacher/student sexual assault case. Using a 2 (Teacher Gender) X 2 (Student Gender) X 3 (Attractiveness Level: Attractive/Unattractive/No Photo) experimental design, we examined jurors’ decisions regarding guilt, sentencing, and perceptions of the teacher and student. Results suggest that the gender of the teacher may impact juror decision-making; however, the level of attractiveness of the teacher and gender of the student had minimal effects. The study contributes to our understanding of how educators who commit sexual acts against students are perceived and treated in the court system and what variables may impact those perceptions. Overall, the present study has important theoretical and practical implications for criminal justice professionals, treatment providers, and the community at large.

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